Nexsen Pruet, PLLC

In the recently ended session in the General Assembly, Senate Bill 770 was enacted. This bill is entitled “An Act To Provide Further Regulatory Relief To The Agricultural Community.”

This legislation had a quite a few provisions in it. Some are not necessarily of interest to the agricultural industry, such as provisions regarding inspection and tagging of household bedding, pet shelter regulations, and others.

However, a number of these provisions will be of interest to anyone involved in agriculture. The following is a very brief summary of these provisions. It is beyond the scope of this article to go into any detail. If anyone has an interest in knowing more, they are welcome to contact the below indicated writer.

Key Provisions

• This legislation creates within the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services a new Agricultural Emergency Response Teams program. These teams will respond to any emergency that “results in exposure of or damage to pre-or post-harvest of plants, livestock, feed, water resources, or infrastructure which adversely affects one or more members of the agricultural community and the economic vitality of the agriculture industry within the State.” The legislation mentioned certain responsibilities of the Response Teams but it provides that other emergency response roles will be defined at a later date.

• Feral swine in North Carolina cause extreme amounts of damage to farmer’s crops. One provision of this legislation allows government employees to cull feral swine by firing upon them from aircraft.

• Of great interest to those in the agricultural industry who grow food products is a provision that allows local school boards to develop and implement policies and procedures that will give percentage price preferences for the procurement of food grown or raised within the State. For those farms that are within counties that have the potential for providing food products to the school system, it is recommended that they contact their school board and begin to urge the adoption of these preferences.

• For some time, North Carolina has had a statutory provision that allows a tax credit of up to twenty-five percent for the cost of constructing and equipping a facility to generate renewable energy from animal waste. This legislation has extended the period of time for such a facility to be placed in service to January 1, 2020, provided that a letter of commitment was filed with the Department of Commerce on or before September 1, 2013.

• The commercial breeding and production of deer and elk is becoming more common. This legislation adopted a new statutory provision which is entitled “Farmed Cervid Industry Promotion Act.” This new law sets up a process for there to be a referendum among all producers of deer and elk as to whether or not they agree to an assessment to be applied which would go to support the North Carolina Deer and Elk Farmers Association, which in turn would use the funds to promote the industry and the products produced by the industry. The statute provides that there will be a notice of the referendum sent out by the Association to at least ten newspapers. Anyone in the agriculture industry who is involved in the commercial production of elk or deer should be on the lookout for this referendum notice.

• Another provision of this legislation expands the exemption from building code inspections for certain improvements to farm structures.

• For people in the agri-business industry who are engaged in the growing and production of horticultural products, a very important new provision has been adopted which exempts from sedimentation and erosion control act requirements all facilities and property used to produce “mulch, ornamental plants, or other horticultural products.”

• As some know, in a recent session of the General Assembly, it adopted a statute which provides for natural gas companies to receive support for extending natural gas facilities to farms. This legislation expands and clarifies certain provisions regarding this incentive.

• A provision of this legislation indicates that renewable energy generated from swine or poultry waste operations will receive priority from electric public utilities for interconnection to the power grid. It is intended that this will help promote the production of electricity from those waste materials.

As stated above, there is a great deal more detail involved in the statutory provisions listed above. Also, there were a number of other provisions that might not be as important to or of interest to people involved in the agri-business industry. If any more information is needed, one can make reference to Senate Bill 770.